“………… Colin Coward’s internal and external debate over whether to out these gentlemen (putative Gay Bishops) stems, I feel, not so much from an intent to embarrass and ridicule (but) rather from a deep pain as to the way the Church hierarchy is not effectively handling this on-going situation. A cold war in the Church of England is being prolonged by the pushing under the carpet of a real dilemma amongst the House of Bishops, that to be utterly truthful about the live situation would see the whole Church exploding in a powder-keg of moral conflict. One might disagree with Colin but one cannot fail to understand and appreciate his dilemma.
And this brings us to a much neglected piece by Andrew Goddard and Giles Goddard published on the Fulcrum website and in the Church Times last weekend. In it, the pair from opposite sides of the debate, after discussing the way that the Kirk commissioned an ongoing committee to explore openly these issues, wrote,
As two people who hold opposing views on this issue, and want the Church of England to follow different trajectories, we believe we can learn from our Scottish Presbyterian brothers and sisters. We need to move beyond the current stand-off and instead engage in serious and substantive conversations, not just talks about talks.
As the Archbishop of Canterbury said, part of the problem is that the subject “has become a cardinal example of how we avoid theological debate”. We urgently need an “opportunity of clarifying” how different perspectives “see the focal theological issues”.
Some formal structure therefore needs to be established to enable “robust but respectful debate” in the context of deepening relationships. This needs to resource and listen to the wider church. As in Scotland, this is unlikely to resolve disagreements but it may enable greater respect between opponents and help us move beyond the current options of either staying silent (as have most bishops) or joining a political campaign on one side or the other.
We believe that the Church of Scotland report helps to identify key areas that we need to explore. It also highlights the urgency of addressing these and our divisions over them. We need to find new and better ways of doing this if, as we hope and pray, we are to find a faithful way forward together.
They are of course right. If we continue as we are, with the conflict already clearly present being pushed under the surface in order not to make things worse, the final outcome is going to be messy and dangerous. Perhaps the Scottish solution is the model for England. We need to allow the Church to have an open and frank conversation on the subject and, as the Kirk is now beginning to enact, ending up being very clear about where it stands on the issue and then enforcing that decision.
That kind of path forward might frighten a lot of people in the Church, but I’m increasingly beginning to see that it is a far better route then to continue as we are. Far better surely to be sitting at the negotiating table then cocking the pistol?
– extract from ‘Leaks and Truths’, by Peter Ould –
I am grateful to Peter Ould for this extension of the debate in the Church of England – on the fall-out from the ‘Guardian’ article, by Colin Brown, concerning a memorandum written by former Dean Colin Slee of Southwark, on his recollections of the proceedings of a Crown Nominations Committee Meeting to consider the election of a new Bishop of Southwark, before the present appointment was made.
Out of all the comments that have been forthcoming – from the post-mortem revelation of the Colin Slee memo – which was critical of the actions of the two provincial Archbishops of the Church of England that blocked the possible appointment of two of the nominees who were put forward for election; perhaps the most enlightening and therefore, useful, – came from a joint statement from the two Goddards, Giles and Andrew, who represent, respectively, two very different points of view on the sexuality debate in the Church of England.
As Peter Ould suggests; when two people like Giles and Andrew Goddard, who each supports a different side of the arguments on LGBT matters in the communion, can agree about the need for a non-aggressive arena for discussion on the matters of gender and sexuality within the Church; then the Bishops and Archbishops should be ready to hear what the Holy Spirit might be saying to the Church – not on an authoritarian level, but in and through the official and unofficial meetings of the Anglican part of the Body of Christ, at both lay and clerical levels of the Church.
Such ordered discussions have not yet been encouraged – either on a diocesan, provincial or Communion basis. In this time leading up to the Feast of Pentecost, would it not be a good idea to commend the whole Church to prayers towards this end – that enlightenment may be sought, through mutual discussion, on the subject of gender and sexuality. as given by God to all who are made in God’s image and likeness?
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch